DEWSBURY RAMS coach Lee Greenwood’s bid to bolster his depleted squad will carry on – but the Tetley’s Stadium team chief says it’s getting harder to clinch new signings, whether permanent or temporary.
Greenwood has managed to re-sign halfback or hooker Dom Speakman, 27, for a third spell at the club and land Huddersfield Academy forward Robson Stevens on loan.
He had previously brought in prop Dan Hawksworth from Keighley, handing the 28-year-old his Rams debut in the 56-12 home defeat by Toulouse.
But he is still down on numbers due to injuries and player departures.
“We’re doing it tough at present, but then so are a lot of clubs, and that’s making things even more difficult,” reported Greenwood, whose side completed a trio of tough fixtures when they hosted Featherstone after facing full-timers London Broncos and Toulouse.
“I’m far from the only coach with injury worries, so there’s more competition for the players who do become available. That includes potential loan signings, and there are fewer of those around at the moment.
“Much of that is due to the knock-on effect of Covid cases at Super League clubs and other players having to isolate as a result of them. Those clubs are both recalling players and less willing to loan others out.”
Dewsbury have already had Huddersfield duo Sam Wood and Jon Luke Kirby, Halifax’s Zack McComb and Featherstone’s Jimmy Beckett this year, and Greenwood added: “We’re grateful to the clubs concerned, but the nature of loans is that they are temporary.
“They can work really well while the players are here, but they can be called back at any point, which makes forward planning more difficult, so it’s good that we’ve got Dan Hawksworth in on a permanent deal.”
Having previously played for Sheffield, York and Hunslet, Hawksworth joined Keighley ahead of the 2020 campaign on a two-year contract from which he has been released early in order to take up Dewsbury’s offer.
Greenwood, whose side visit Oldham on Sunday, explained: “I’ve followed him for a couple of years, so know what he’s about. We’re particularly short in that position and he suits what we’re after.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS winning at Whitehaven was right up with their best performances of the season believes coach Craig Lingard.
It followed victories over Oldham, Widnes, Newcastle, Sheffield and Swinton and meant the Bulldogs went into their game at York in fourth place.
The LNER Stadium showdown was the first in a string of testing fixtures for Batley, who host Halifax on Sunday, then visit Bradford before Toulouse come to the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium.
While fans are talking about a possible play-off challenge, Lingard is taking things one game at a time, and says the 24-20 triumph at Whitehaven was encouraging.
“I can’t recall a previous win there, either as a player or a coach, which is a sign of how tough a team they are, particularly on their own patch,” he said.
“The crowd up there are very partisan, and it was their first home game since the return of spectators, so there was an extra edge in that respect.
“It’s a testing trip, because you have to deal with spending a good few hours on a coach, and we were down to 17 fit players, with some playing with little niggles and others out of position.
“They were 16-6 up at half-time, so to get back into it and go on and win was really pleasing. I’m proud of the effort put in by my side.”
Lingard, who was without the likes of centres Kieran Buchanan (calf), Jack Logan (shoulder/back) and Dale Morton (knee) and forwards James Brown (wrist) and Josh Tonks (back), accepts Batley’s bright start to the campaign has made them something of a scalp.
“You could say we’ve put our heads above the parapet, but that’s not a problem, because we’re a hardworking side and none of my players are getting carried away,” he added.
“I don’t think our start to the season has been a fluke, and it’s given us a platform, but we know there’s still a long way to go.”
WHITEHAVEN coach Gary Charlton wants his side to concentrate on getting the basics right ahead of successive home games which could provide a route up the table.
Having just completed the 660-mile round trip to London Broncos, the survival-seeking Cumbrians host York on Sunday and struggling Swinton seen days after that.
Charlton’s side went into the London game having won two and drawn one of their nine previous league fixtures and been beaten 24-20 at home to Batley the week before.
Ten points up at the break, Whitehaven paid the price for a poor start to the second half, during which they conceded three tries.
Frustrated Charlton says his players have to quickly learn the lessons, explaining: “They defend manfully, but they have to do too much of it.
“I thought we played well in the first half, with good kick-chase pinning them back, and everything looked rosy.
“But everything changed at the start of the second half, and that was down to making too many errors and giving away too many penalties, which allowed too many repeat sets.
“Batley completed sets, we bucked, because we gave ourselves too much to do, and every week we’re talking about the same thing.
“Momentum is hard to stop, and we let them get it, and however hard you work, you can only defend for so long.
“Not only do you allow the opposition to score points, but when you do get the ball in your hands, you have less energy because of all the defending.”
Charlton added: “When we are under the pump, we need someone to stand up, and until we get better at dealing with these situations, we will get the same outcome.
“You have to play to a high level consistently to give yourself a chance in this division, and that’s our target.”
Whitehaven have renamed the main stand at the LEL Arena after former long-serving kit man Jimmy Clements, who died aged 82 in April.
SWINTON LIONS back Mike Butt is setting the standard for his teammates to follow in the battle for second-tier survival, says coach Stuart Littler.
The Lions team chief has been impressed with both the workrate and versatility of the 26-year-old Wales international.
Butt, who represented England Students before signing for Swinton in 2015, switched from the wing to fullback during the recent 36-30 home defeat by Newcastle, a ninth loss in nine league games this season.
That’s after ex-Thatto Heath and England Community Lions player Ben Heyes, who replaced unavailable Kiwi Geronimo Doyle, was forced off by an injury.
“We’re doing it tough at the moment, and with Geronimo out because of Covid protocols, it was Ben Heyes’ chance to shine, but then he got a shoulder knock,” said Littler, who has taken Leigh prop Tom Spencer on loan for the second time this season.
“We had to rejig and Mike was superb at fullback. His energy on the ball was high, and that energised the rest of the team. The others need to replicate what he is doing.”
Swinton, who after hosting Halifax, visit London Broncos on Sunday, faced an uphill task against Newcastle after going 30-0 down inside half an hour.
“After that, we had a dig, and won the rest of the game 30-6, but we had given ourselves a mountain to climb,” added Littler.
“Giving a team with experienced players like Newcastle have a 30-point start is too much of an advantage. It was too easy for them early on.
“We had spoken about controlling the ruck speed and their key players, but we didn’t do it in the first phase of the match.
“We rolled our sleeves up eventually, but it was too late. We need to start doing that from the start of matches and seeing where it takes us.”
Meanwhile, Swinton’s Italy international winger Richard Lepori faces a battle to return this season after a muscle injury sustained in the gym.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS need to toughen up if they are to mount a promotion challenge this season, according to coach James Ford, who has boosted his options with loan signings of halfbacks Jamie Ellis and Jake Sweeting from Leigh and Featherstone respectively and Castleford forward Tyla Hepi.
While Sweeting has arrived at the Knights, winger Perry Whiteley has gone in the opposite direction, also on loan.
The 30-6 loss at Halifax was a fifth in nine league games for York, who went into their home clash with Batley still seeking a win against a side above them in the table.
Toulouse, Sheffield, Featherstone and Bradford had previously inflicted defeats on York, whose victories were against Swinton, Dewsbury, Widnes and Oldham.
Ford’s side also beat Swinton in the semi-finals of the 1895 Cup to book a Wembley meeting with Featherstone on Saturday, July 17.
Before the big final, York have games at Whitehaven on Sunday, at home to Newcastle on July 4 and away to London Broncos on July 11.
And Ford is demanding a major improvement on the performance against Halifax, who scored two tries in the first 15 minutes and four without replay in the second half.
“We made it really hard for ourselves with the start, with the amount of errors and penalties that we gave away,” he said.
“While we gave Halifax the possession, we managed that. We withstood that and, at 10-6, we were in the game. But I feel like that caught up with us at the end.
“We need to apologise to the supporters, those who travelled to York and also those who paid to watch the match on OurLeague.
“It just wasn’t good enough and I’ve spoke to the players about it. I can’t get my head around why one or two feel they can serve that up and just move on and play the next match.
“There needs to be some significant improvements in a lot of the players.
“We gave them a lot of possession which impacted the energy of both teams, negatively to us and positively to them.
“Ultimately, they bullied us, they bullied us around the middle and I’m asking our blokes: ‘Why can’t we go and bully them?’. We need to toughen up.”
BRADFORD BULLS coach John Kear has called on his side to pick up the pieces after a “very poor” performance at Featherstone and bounce back at home to Widnes on Sunday.
The Bulls, who have just had a blank weekend as they had been due to play Toulouse in France, travelled to the Millennium Stadium buoyed by seven straight league wins.
But they slumped 44-0, reminding Kear of the 50-12 defeat by Sheffield in the league opener back in April.
“We played very poorly and our performance was as bad if not worse than the Sheffield one,” he said.
“We’ve had a couple of horror shows now amid a very good start to the season, so we need to eliminate those.
“After a game like that, I would have liked to play again straight away, as when you fall off the horse, it’s good to get straight back on it and conquer all your fears.
“But it doesn’t matter what I would have preferred, the fact is we couldn’t go to France to play Toulouse.
“And with no game, we’ve been able to have a really in-depth inquest, because we can’t just write this off and accept it as a one-off.
“It will be a tough game against Widnes and we’ll certainly have to be at our best because they took Featherstone close in the 1895 Cup semi-final, while we didn’t even scare them.”
Kear, who in the absence of long-term injury absentee Danny Brough, played Brandon Pickersgill in the halves, was without isolating duo Aaron Murphy and Dan Fleming.
And he is keeping tabs on props Ben Evans and Ebon Scurr, who were forced off with leg and neck injuries.
“The medical staff did a wonderful job with Ebon, because there was real concern initially, but the diagnosis is he’s okay,” he explained.
“And we thought Ben had broken his leg, as he was in a fair bit of pain, but he’s okay and is recovering.”
HALIFAX PANTHERS coach Simon Grix has urged his players to carry on listening during training sessions as he plots a push for the play-offs.
The Panthers went into their game at struggling Swinton on the back of an impressive fourth win in five, 30-6 at home to York.
Dewsbury, Newcastle and Sheffield were defeated previously, while Halifax were narrowly beaten by Featherstone.
That followed only one victory from their first four league matches, against London Broncos in round one, and the coach believes there is more to come from his side.
“We’ve been building and getting better, and a lot of that is down to the players taking on board the information they are given during the week,” he said.
“We try to see where we can hurt teams, and a lot of it is down to doing the right things at the right times during matches.
“But there are still improvements to be made, particularly in the way we tend to tail off during the second half of games.
“In the first half against York, I thought we were dominant in all areas. We carried hard and with purpose and were decent defensively.
“But we dropped off a bit in the second half, and having completed at around 80 per cent in the first, the figure was lower.
“I wouldn’t class myself a completion coach, but while it’s not the be all and end all, it does have a bearing, and we need to be better in that respect.
Grix, whose side have a derby at Batley on Sunday, praised brother Scott for his performance at scrum-half against York.
“I thought he did some smart stuff and played some nice passes, and he is one who certainly acted on what he was told.”
Grix also picked out centre Zack McComb, back from a loan at neighbours Dewsbury, and second rowers Ben Kavanagh and Matt Garside as leading performers.
WIDNES VIKINGS coach Simon Finnigan says his side’s increased resilience is pleasing – but believes there is still plenty to work on, especially in defence.
The Vikings lost out late on to London Broncos, who won 24-22 at the DCBL Stadium, and Finnigan said: “We gave them a sniff and they got us.
“I’m disappointed, because we put a fair bit into the game in terms of effort, but some of our execution was off and some of our defensive reads weren’t very good.
“That ended up costing us because they were able to take advantage, and we need to make sides like London work harder for their tries.”
After hosting Sheffield, Widnes head to Bradford, where Finnigan played back in 2008, on Sunday.
“We’re certainly looking a more resilient side than earlier in the season, and that’s a positive going forward,” he added.
“We are more able to get through difficult spells in matches, such as when Danny Craven was sin binned against London.”
Finnigan says the presence of fans is making a difference, explaining: “They have been great, and they always turn up for us and stick with us.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES second row Brad Knowles is desperate to recover from a neck injury and return to action this season.
Meanwhile, prop Scott Wheeldon will miss the next two games – against Toulouse at Wakefield on Sunday (Sheffield’s base for the season, the Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster, is unavailable due to pitch maintenance work) and at Dewsbury seven days later.
The former Featherstone man has been handed a three-match ban, which started when the Eagles visited Widnes, for dangerous contact during the 46-12 defeat at Halifax.
Wheeldon, who pleaded guilty, was unsuccessful in his challenge of the grading of the offence and was also fined £250.
Popular Knowles, also an ex-Featherstone player, picked up his injury during the Halifax match.
“It’s nothing I haven’t had before but I knew something wasn’t right straight away,” said the 27-year-old, who was signed ahead of the 2019 season.
“I don’t like missing training, I don’t like missing games. I don’t like being a guy sitting on the sidelines.
“But you have just got to be careful with something like this because of where it is. As soon as that pain starts to decrease, I’ll up the ante.”
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE hooker Lloyd White has been named in the Jamaica train-on squad ahead of the World Cup.
The Cardiff-born former Widnes man, 32, has won 15 caps for Wales, as well as representing the country at the inaugural World Cup Nines in 2019.
Now he is in Jamaica coach Romeo Monteith’s plans for this Autumn’s tournament, in which the Reggae Warriors will face Ireland and New Zealand at Headingley and Lebanon at Leigh Sports Village.
Toulouse have ten representatives in the recently-named France train-on squad: Bastien Ader, Ilias Bergal, Rémi Casty, Tony Gigot, Mathieu Jussaume, Mark Kheirallah, Anthony Marion, Eloi Pelissier, Maxime Puech and Justin Sangaré.
The French side, who have seven wins from seven matches in a season in which all the six games they have played to date have been in England (they were awarded a walkover after London Broncos elected not to travel to France), take on Sheffield on Sunday in a match which has been switched to Wakefield because of pitch maintenance work at the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster.
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS loan signing Darcy Lussick is hoping for another run-out in front of the Rovers faithful against Newcastle on Saturday.
The 32-year-old Australian prop’s move from Salford was for an initial two weeks, up to and including the away game at Dewsbury, but could be extended.
Former Manly, Parramatta and Toronto man Lussick, who has figured five times for Salford this season, made his Featherstone bow in the 44-0 home win over Bradford.
An eighth win from eight league matches for James Webster’s side was witnessed by a 1,700-strong crowd at the Millennium Stadium.
“The fans were awesome, and playing in front of them was a fantastic experience,” said Lussick, who joined Salford ahead of this season.
“I’ve been in the receiving end of them in the past, so to have them on my side and to get the win was fantastic.”
Rovers have taken York winger Perry Whiteley on loan, with halfback Jake Sweeting heading in the opposite direction.
Whiteley, 28, came through the youth ranks at Huddersfield before spending two years in Australia.
He returned to the UK with Workington in 2015 and joined Sheffield in 2017 and Keighley a year later, moving to York on transfer deadline day in 2018.
LONDON BRONCOS skipper Will Lovell believes the character and determination shown in the 24-22 win at Widnes bodes well for the capital side.
Prop Titus Gwaze’s late try enabled Chris Hankinson to kick the match-deciding conversion for Danny Ward’s side.
After the visit of Whitehaven to Ealing, Danny Ward’s men are at home to Swinton on Sunday.
“We were all extremely pleased with the result at Widnes, we enjoyed a great bus journey home and team spirit in the squad is high right now,” said centre Lovell.
“It was a scrappy match at times, and I thought we did well. Sometimes you just have to find a win when games are like that, and we managed to do it.
“We weren’t at our best at times, but ultimately we got the win by taking advantage of when our performance levels were at their strongest.
“We dug deep to get the job done at Widnes in front of a very supportive home crowd, and we need to carry our momentum forward.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER director of rugby Denis Betts hailed Joe Brown after the long-serving Jamaica international made a permanent move to Workington, where he been on loan.
The 34-year-old centre is Thunder’s record appearance maker with 234 over 13 years, the last of those against Batley in May.
“Joe has contributed greatly to this club over the years,” said Betts. “He harbours real ambitions to be part of Jamaica’s squad at the World Cup and wants to play each week to make that happen.
“Switching to Workington will give him the best opportunity to play in his first World Cup, and he leaves with our blessing.”
Having hosted Oldham, Newcastle are next in action at Featherstone on Saturday.
OLDHAM coach Matt Diskin says he has faith in his squad, despite going into the game at Newcastle on the back of five successive defeats.
Looking back at the 32-28 home loss against Sheffield, he said: “Our recent form has been frustrating, to say the least. That’s the most polite way to describe it.
“Not for the first time, we dominated the game, but lost purely because of some basic errors.
“We gifted Sheffield at least 18 of their points and it was a similar story against Whitehaven, when individual errors cost us the game.
“I firmly believe we are a better side than the position in which we find ourselves in the Championship table.
“To pull away from the bottom two, we need to learn — and fast — that we can’t afford to keep making mistakes, unforced or otherwise, and thus giving the opposition points or good field position.
“Some of our mistakes have been absolutely crazy and have nullified all the hard work the boys have undoubtedly put in.
“I could never fault their work ethic, only their errors, so we have to work through this spell, gain some confidence and have the belief to start winning again.”
Oldham host Dewsbury on Sunday.
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